Bears-Panthers preview Panthers ball

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Bears-Panthers preview Panthers ball

If something seems to be too good to be true, it often painfully is, particularly in apparent sports mismatches. USA vs. USSR hockey 1980. Michigan-Appalachian State. Tyson-Douglas.
Bears 2012 defense vs. 2012 Cam Newton.
The Bears field the NFLs best scoring defense, both at preventing other peoples (13 points per game, seven or fewer in three of six games) and doing it themselves (five defensive TDs). The Carolina Panthers are 28th in scoring.
No team has taken the ball away from opposing offenses more than the Bears (21). Only four teams have a worse turnover ratio than the Panthers minus-6
Whither the run?
The thing the Panthers purport and are built to do best is run the ball. But they have match the millions invested in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams with anything resembling a coherent offensive philosophy or even game plans.
Newton has taken the heaviest criticism for offensive failures. But in the five-point loss to Dallas last Sunday, Panthers running backs carried a total of 15 times, even with Carolina leading through most of the fourth quarter.
In the four-point loss to Seattle, Carolinas three running backs had a total of 11 carries in game where the Panthers took a lead early in the third quarter.
Curiously, the Panthers see to be in some sort of denial.
For the most part, weve handed the ball off an awful lot to those two guys Stewart and Williams,said coach Ron Rivera. I think what we do people dont get as well. A lot of the things we did last year we had success with and this year and people have changed and adapted to what we do, and were trying to adapt as well, so we stay a step ahead.
Weve had some things weve struggled with, obviously, and there are some things we want to get back to.
If the Panthers move to get back to their run game, the Bears will be waiting. They are second in run defense (71.3 yards per game), which has forced teams to become one-dimensional, and that has led to turnovers.
Smith wild card
The Panthers may follow form and come at the Bears primarily with one weapon that has done severe damage to Chicago in the past: wide receiver Steve Smith.
Smith has caught 34 passes in three games against the Bears, beginning with the 2005 regular season, the 2005 divisional playoff and finally last season.
He's a smaller guy but he plays big, said cornerback Charles Tillman, who won his matchup against Detroits Calvin Johnson last Monday but is likely to have duties other than Smith, expected to be shadowed by Tim Jennings. He's a nightmare to defenses, and this will be another good matchup for this defense.
But the Bears won two of those three games, and Rivera was the Bears defensive coordinator in the first two. The defense would be more than fine with Smith getting his 11 or so catches; theyll take the win.
Every coverage has been tried against him, said coach Lovie Smith. But you have to have a plan for him, and we do.

David Accam is back and that's good for the Fire

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David Accam is back and that's good for the Fire

David Accam is the Chicago Fire's best player and when he plays the team is better.

While that statement should be obvious to anyone who has watched the Fire on a regular basis this year, it is worth mentioning because of how much time Accam has missed this season.

Accam played a starring role in the team's 4-3 loss in the season opener. He had a goal and an assist. The next match he scored early in Orlando before the Fire were forced to defend while playing down a man due to a red card.

Then he got injured. Accam missed six games and the Fire scored four goals in those matches without him. After making two abbreviated appearances during the team's recent road trip, he was unable to play last week at home due to a suspension.

“It’s difficult for me because I’ve been through a lot in the last two months," Accam said. "For me I’m just happy to be on the pitch now and playing. It will take some time for me to get into match fitness and start going, but I’m happy with my performance today.”

Accam scored in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Portland. It was his first start at home since his barnstorming season debut back on March 6. It was also his first 90-minute outing since March 11.

Kennedy Igboananike assisted on the goal. The partnership in the attack between Igboananike and Accam is one the Fire needs to become a fine-tuned weapon for the team to have a successful season.

“I think what we are looking for is to have associations in the team and the two of them work very good together," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We could see that in the first game when David was fit, also in the second game until we had the (red card). Since then David was injured, but David is very important. Not only because of his individual qualities, but he improves our team in how our team feels better on the field and offensively with more potential."

Accam had five shots, two on goal, and Igboananike had four shots, three on goal. Accam thinks the team is starting to improve its on-field chemistry.

“I think so, especially in the front three," the Ghanaian said. "We are creating chances. Last week we created a lot of chances and today, too.

“In the last two games we started to feel the way we wanted to play and for me it’s been much better. We conceded one goal in the last three games and we created I think more than five clear chances so for me it’s getting better.”

Fire unable to find winner in tie with Portland

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Fire unable to find winner in tie with Portland

Getting a second goal is becoming a thing for the Chicago Fire.

A thing they aren't getting.

The Fire pushed for a go-ahead second goal against Portland on Saturday, but it never came. The team's inability to find a second goal, something the team hasn't scored since the season opener, meant they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against the Timbers.

In a lot of ways, the Fire played better. They outshot Portland 17-8, 6-2 in shots on target, and in the second half had rare extended stretches of possession. But they were still not able to break a halftime deadlock.

"It was just that we didn’t score that second goal, which was very important for us," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We are building the momentum. We were close to winning this game today and we are happy with the performance.”

The Fire (2-5-5, 11 points) are now 2-2-3 in seven home matches.

Portland (4-6-4, 16 points) took the lead in the 18th minute when Diego Valeri took advantage of a poor Rodrigo Ramos clearance. Ramos' ball got caught up in the wind and stayed near the box. Valeri won the ball back and beat Sean Johnson from a tight angle, sliding a shot just inside the far post.

Almost immediately the Fire leveled the match through David Accam. Accam, making his first home start since the season opener, redirected a Kennedy Igboananike centering pass to tie things back up.

“I know when he goes wide I need to be in the box," Accam said. "I know he has a good left foot also to put that ball in the box so I was in the right position when the ball came in.”

It was Accam's third goal of the season and his first since March 11. Accam and Igboananike created most of the dangerous chances for the Fire, linking up regularly other than the goal.

Another forward who could have joined the attack, Gilberto, was out for personal reasons. The Brazilian had played his best of the year last week.

The Fire had a strong wind at their backs in the second half and used it to keep the ball in Portland's half and extend the lead in shots they took into halftime. Despite being unable to get the win at home, multiple players claimed they are seeing progress in the team's performances.

"I think we’re finally putting full 90s together as a team," midfielder Matt Polster said. "I think during the beginning of the season we were getting used to each other. I think we put in good 65, 70 minutes of a game. As we’re growing as a team now I think we’re putting a full 90 together.”

Now the Fire go on break for the Copa America. The team will not train next week other than a fitness plan given to the players. The next match will be in the US Open Cup on June 15 with both location and opponent to be determined on June 1.

The next MLS match is June 18 at Philadelphia and the next MLS home match will be July 1 against San Jose.

Sale looks to stop the slide as White Sox face Royals on CSN

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Sale looks to stop the slide as White Sox face Royals on CSN

The White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale vs. Edison Volquez

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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